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The Tony nominee co-stars with Andy Samberg in the time-loop romance Palm Springs, which drops on Amazon Prime Video Canada this week
PALM SPRINGS (Max Barbakow). 90 minutes. Available to stream Friday (December 18) on Amazon Prime Video Canada.
Cristin Milioti tends to be the rock. In television projects like How I Met Your Mother, the second season of Noah Hawley’s Fargo or that one episode of Black Mirror, she’s called upon to hold the centre of the story, either narratively or morally. It probably started on Broadway, where she played The Girl in the wistful stage adaptation of Once, earning a Tony nomination in the process.
But if you’d seen Milioti’s 30 Rock episode a year earlier – where she played an aggressively sexual, baby-voiced comedian who completely destabilizes Liz Lemon’s writer’s room – you’d know her secret strength is pure manic energy. And that’s something she gets to embrace alongside Andy Samberg in Palm Springs.
“I love mania,” Milioti says over Zoom. “We just did an interview the other day, Andy and I, where he said it was a pleasure to get to watch me be a lunatic. And it’s really true. I love mania; it’s, like, my spiritual bread and butter.”
Palm Springs, which arrives on Amazon Prime Video Canada on Friday (December 18), casts Milioti as Sarah, a woman who finds herself repeating the day of her sister’s wedding over and over alongside Samberg’s nihilistic Nyles, who’s been trapped in the loop for so long he can’t even remember the person he used to be.
“I’m not terribly familiar with the time-loop genre outside of Russian Doll, to be honest with you,” she says. “It’s actually quite Zen, because everyone knows what it’s like to be desperate to escape yourself – that’s what’s so brilliant about time-loop movies as a genre”.
“The time loop itself is almost superfluous,” she adds, “because whether you want to admit it or not, there’s times in your life where everything feels the same, and it feels like you are unable to change it or that you’re sentenced to it or something. I think that’s why it’s such a brilliant metaphor.”
The genius of Andy Siara’s script is that it lets Nyles represent the audience’s familiarity with the time-loop narrative – while Sarah’s experience shows us the full existential horror of having to live one, day after day.
“That’s actually one of the things that made me salivate over it when I first read it,” Milioti says. “The fact that she gets to do so much, to go through so much. I jumped at [this], because it’s rare that you’re given an opportunity to show the whole spectrum. I really got to do that with her, which was great.”
And then there’s the other thing. With its plot about people trapped with each other in the same place, and an endless calendar of days stretching out ahead of them, Palm Springs turned out to be the perfect movie for 2020.
“We certainly had no idea it would be that prescient,” Milioti laughs, allowing that the wedding scenes – with dozens of people dancing and talking and being happy together – now carry an unexpectedly nostalgic charge.
“The happiest moments of my life have been in crowds,” she says. “Whether it’s seeing a concert together or the screening of this film at Sundance with 400 people in a dark space, no one [knowing] what the movie was about, and hearing people laugh and scream and cry – like, those are holy communion to me”.
“I saw a bunch of great music concerts in the fall of 2019, and I’m gripping onto them – I’m, like, licking the candy wrapper of those memories. It’s everything. It makes you feel less alone and makes you feel human. So yeah, it is. It’s a bummer not to feel that way when you walk into a crowd of people. But I’m also hopeful that this too shall pass … I keep looking back at the Spanish flu and I’m like, ‘Okay, great, that [took] two years, and then people were eventually back in concert halls and back in restaurants.’
“It’s almost unimaginable, which is wild, but then that also gives me faith that we will remain elastic and that actually, one day in the future we’ll be like, ‘Wow, it was unimaginable, that we couldn’t hug each other for two years. Now we hug each other all the time.’”